Goal setting 101

12 March 2018

Rebecca Sparrow

Rebecca Sparrow is Suncorp’s #TeamGirls ambassador and a best-selling author, columnist, podcast host and passionate advocate for teenage girls. Rebecca regularly visits high schools to present to students, and has developed a range of resources to help girls navigate their way through their formative years.

Follow Bec's work on Facebook or visit You can even catch Bec on the #TeamGirls in 10 podcast series.

Do you know what do you want? What do you really want for your future?

A new career? A better car? A new camera for your photography hobby or side hack? Maybe you want to write a novel or save the money to hike around Spain? And the money to pay for a new backpack and hiking boots so you can backpack through Spain?

Whatever your age - parent or child - being able to articulate what it is you really want is important.

Once you've thought about where you'd like to be in a few months, or a few years the next big step is setting it as a goal. Without this step, all you're really doing is talking about it to your sister, your mates, your co-workers and your family. And let's be honest - talking isn't going to make anything happen.

Why set goals?

The great thing about setting a goal is that it motivates you. It gives you something to focus on and something to strive for. Plus, it's a way for you to turn wishes and dreams into reality. As my father always said, goals teach you that the 'big picture' is really made up of lots of little pictures. In other words, to achieve the big goal (I want to fulfil my dream of being a midwife) - you need to tick off lots of little goals or steps to get there.

"Goals teach you that the 'big picture' is really made up of lots of little pictures."

Goals fuel your motivation

As you tick off the steps to achieving your big goal, you'll feel a great sense of satisfaction and be motivated even more to keep going. You'll also find out what you're good at along the way. Better still, it'll help you feel like your life has direction and you're not just 'floating' around in life with no clue what you're doing. Goals can give you a sense of purpose when you wake up in the morning.

Back in January 2000, I set myself the goal of writing a novel and having it published. Everyone around me told me I was crazy. What did I know about writing novels? Nothing. (Fair point). But I was determined and I'd found a mentor in the writing community who was happy to encourage me and support me. So, while nearly everyone around me told me I'd have no chance, I broke the task down into small goals: plotting out the storyline until I could see it running like a movie through my head; setting myself a target of writing a certain number of words every day to get the first draft written; asking for feedback from my mentor and then submitting the finished, polished manuscript to a publisher when it was ready. And I did.

It took me 12 months to write a 60,000-word novel and the first publisher I approached rejected me but that novel, The Girl Most Likely, was published in 2003 by the University of Queensland Press. I truly believe that the secret to my success was setting myself smaller goals and sticking to them.

What else? Surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you're trying to achieve. Sometimes chasing a dream makes other people feel threatened and insecure about their own lives. Sister, you ain't got time for that. Friendships are key. Spend time with those people who are positive and who are cheering you on.

"Sister, you ain't got time for people who find your goals threatening. Friendships are key. Spend time with those people who are positive and who are cheering you on."

Use online resources to help with goal setting

Now, there are hundreds of great websites and books that explain how to set goals and dozens of apps designed to keep you accountable and on-track but in the meantime, here are some goal setting tips in a nutshell. Make one goal or a dozen. You could have financial goals, career goals, and health and well-being goals, relationship goals it's up to you.

Top Tips

  • Your goal needs to be realistic (attainable) but not so easy that you could achieve it tomorrow. If you can achieve it too easily, maybe you're not aiming high enough!
  • Write your goals down as positive statements with a deadline attached to them. For example, "I will compete in a triathlon within the next 12 months."
  • Think about exact steps you then need to take to achieve that goal. This action plan is your map. Again, think about attaching a deadline to each step. So, if your goal is to save $5000 to go overseas, your steps might be:
    • By this time in two weeks (add a specific date and stick to it) I will have made an appointment with my bank to set up an automatic savings plan that moves $80 per week from my main account into a special savings account.
    • By next week (add a date) I will have written a 6-month budget to see if there are any areas I can save extra money.
    • I will make a commitment to stop buying lunches and take-away coffees and instead put that money into my savings account.

Focus on your feelings:

A final thought: Sometimes achieving a goal isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Don't get me wrong, I do love a good goal but, well, it's a mistake to think that achieving something is going to make you instantly happier. Life doesn't really work that way. It often pays to focus on the feelings you want in your life, rather than just the specific achievement.

So instead of "I want to be earning $100,000 per year by 2019", try "I want to be working in a job where I feel fulfilled and inspired and am financially secure by 2019." It's also important to stay flexible. If you have total tunnel vision you could miss some great opportunities that present themselves on the way.

Written by Rebecca Sparrow for Suncorp #TeamGirls

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